For the second time in as many seasons, British actress Eve Best delivers an award-worthy performance in a production that seems far too stately for Broadway but has managed to get there anyway. Last spring she combined toughness with just the right touch of vulnerability opposite Kevin Spacey in A Moon for the Misbegotten. Now she’s the in-law in Harold Pinter’s unsettling probe into a family of men in London who clench their anger and bitterness in a viselike grip as they verbally dissect and dismember each other.
As the family dynamics unfurl around her, Best quietly and carefully commands attention as Ruth, the wife of previously absent son Teddy (James Frain), who brings her home to meet the relatives for the first time after seven years of marriage. There’s domineering father Max (Ian McShane), who wields his cane like a samurai’s sword; his foil, timid uncle Sam (Michael McKean); and brothers Lenny (Raul Esparza), the angry one, and Joey (Gareth Saxe), the compliant one.
What ensues is the physical embodiment of a Freudian nightmare, with Ruth welcoming the stroking and fondling of her in-laws as she stands in for their dead mother and wife, who’s the object of recriminations and resentment. Daniel Sullivan brings together his mixed British and American cast with precision and authority. Esparza’s embittered, misanthropic Lenny is a solid match for Best’s understated, subtle but never passive Ruth. If McShane seems too virile for the faltering father and Frain too uncertain about Teddy’s motives, it only slightly detracts from a compelling evocation of the explosive, unspoken chemical reaction of sex, power and family dynamics.
By Diane Snyder
Visit the Site
Ian McShane, Raul Esparza, Michael McKean, Eve Best, Gareth Saxe, James Frain
138 West 48th Street
New York, NY 10036